Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia said on Friday that the standard of the Indian Super League (ISL) has dipped in this edition because of the defensive approach of the coaches.
Speaking at a ‘meet the press’ organised by the Calcutta Sports Journalists’ Club, Bhutia said the number of goals scored this edition didn’t paint a good picture. “Statistics say goals scored in the third year were less compared to earlier editions. I think the difference is around 37. Last year, Atletico de Kolkata had the maximum number of Indian scorers along with Chennaiyin FC. This year, there was not a single Indian. I think this year more coaches are trying not to lose,” Bhaichung said.
Going into the semi-finals, a total of 134 goals have been scored in ISL 3. At that stage, 171 goals were scored last edition. That said, Bhutia didn’t forget to point out that the ISL had definitely improved football’s image.
“We have more media coverage, more people are coming to watch games. It’s good because we didn’t see the same interest in I-League. So many people came to watch FC Goa’s matches but not when Dempo, Salgaocar or Sporting Clube de Goa played. That’s sad,” he said.
An adviser to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) as well as chairman of its technical committee, Bhutia said the proposed leagues’ merger should not hinder chances of clubs playing at the highest level.
“Each and every club in India today has to have the chance to play the highest league through promotion and relegation. I think the merger is going to be a lot of give and take between clubs and the ISL. East Bengal and Mohun Bagan need to be playing the top league but the ISL and I-League will have to decide how because these two clubs have a huge fan base,” he said.
Bhutia also pointed out that the merged league should be long enough to give Indian footballers a proper employment.
“If you see now, Indian players have to go through a few months of unemployment since the ISL is not too long. The issue was raised with the players’ association as well. In future, we have to see that the league is at least seven months long so that their employment goes up. Doing that would be a gamble and a challenge. It’s about giving contracts to the right players,” he said.